How Are You Helping Hurting Students?

Like Us
article_images/3_20_Youth_Wesley__How_Are_You_Helping_Hurting_Students____149280337.jpg

Nothing is harder in youth ministry than serving hurting teens.

Nothing is harder in youth ministry than serving hurting teens. Growing up, I was one of them during my parents’ divorce. I hit some dark moments that were hard to navigate through. Fortunately, the associate pastor from our church got out ahead of my pain when he saw some early signs of it and invited me to just hang with him for the day. It was a life saving moment.

If you are in youth ministry, you have hurting teens. You might not see it or it might be obvious. Pain is a part of growing up, and, for these teens, much of what they experience is going to be personal. Whether it’s being rejected by a crush or being the victim of abuse, their pain can be the center of their world. The question you need to answer is:
 

HOW AM I HELPING HURTING TEENS?

It’s not simple or easy. In fact, it’s what makes youth ministry messy. The best action you can take is through proactive steps, such as:

PREACHING ABOUT IT

When you talk to your teens about hurting, you give them an opening to step forward. If you share your experience, it lets them know that they aren’t alone. Use your platform as an opportunity to address their options for healing, and to let them know that God is with them every step of the way.

PREPARING LEADERS

When you have adults building relationships with teens, you are creating scenarios where pain will be revealed. Prepare your leaders before messages that might provoke difficult conversations (i.e. messages on forgiveness). Let them know they need to:

Listen
Affirm their feelings
Walk with them through the situation

If professional intervention is needed, make sure leaders know the protocol. Make sure they know that they can count on you and work with you to find the help that is needed.

HAVING A CRISIS PLAN

There will be times when you need to talk with professionals. That means working with the police when dealing with abuse, and grievance counselors for death. Planning for tragedy is so difficult because each situation is unique. That’s why you need a basic plan. Work with your pastor, leadership in your denomination, and professionals to make sure you have a clear and concrete protocol.

EDUCATING PARENTS

Parents are never really prepared to deal with their own kid in crisis. As youth workers, you need to equip parents to be proactive. That means educating them on early signs of hurting, situations that might lead a teen down the wrong path, and giving them resources in times of need. Letting them know that you care builds trust and reminds them that they are not alone.

Helping hurting teens is not easy; however, being on the front end of the situation will help everyone. In times of darkness, people need hope, and you as the youth minister can provide that. By being proactive, you are committing to leaning into the problems and that’s what the church is for.

What resources, and/or tips, would you recommend for helping hurting teens?  

Courtesy of featkae/Creative Commons License

Chris Wesley Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met my wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, heI was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.

More from Chris Wesley or visit Chris at http://www.christopherwesley.org

Please Note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, uncivil and off-topic. Read a detailed description of our Comments Policy.
Music_Scale

WATCH: The Christmas Scale

It’s hard to believe that the greatest message the world will ever hear is contained in one simple scale. From Igniter Media.